‘Today I don’t exist.
Tomorrow I probably won’t either‘
– No Touching
[ About the Book ]
Josephine teaches in a high school in a suburb of Paris. Her life is a balancing act between Xanax and Tupperware lunches in the staff room until she walks into a Champs-Elysée’s strip club.
There she learns a secret nocturnal code of conduct; she discovers camaraderie and the joys of female company, and she thrills at the sensation of men’s desire directed toward her. Josephine, a teacher by day, begins to lead a secret existence by night that ultimately allows her to regain control of her life. This delicate balance is shattered one evening by an unexpected visitor to the club where she dances.
A heartrending reflection on a woman’s image of herself, and the way others see her, Ketty Rouf’s extraordinary debut novel No Touching won the prestigious French literary prize Prix du Premier Roman 2020 (First Novel award)
[ My Review ]
No Touching by Ketty Rouf was published August 10th with Europa Editions with the translation from French to English by Tina Kover. No Touching is described as ‘a moving story of liberation that shatters tired prejudices about womanhood, sex, and society‘ and is a book that packs a seriously unexpected punch at less than 200 pages. It is always very important for me to read books that are outside the norm for me. Stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown offers a wonderful experience allowing me the opportunity to delve into worlds that would never normally be open to me.
Europa Editions offers an extremely diverse array of books as an independent publisher of international fiction. Its objective is ‘to bring fresh international voices to the American and British markets and to provide quality editions that have a distinct look and consistently high levels of editorial standards. The Europa catalogue is eclectic, reflecting the founders’ belief that dialogue between nations and cultures is of vital importance and that this exchange is facilitated by literature chosen not only for its ability to entertain and fascinate but also to inform and enlighten.‘ Many readers are now very familiar with The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (published by Europa Editions) but Europa Editions offers so much more.
No Touching was originally published in French and, through the excellent translation by Tina Kover, the reader is taken on a very provocative journey into the lives of women working in the strip clubs of the French capital. Josephine is a philosophy teacher in a high-school in the suburb of Drancy in Paris. Her daily commute is long and dreary. Her pupils are inattentive, indifferent to her classes. Josephine is losing herself to the mundanity of her life unsure of her future and extremely frustrated with her present.
In her younger years she never felt attractive. As a late developer she was cast aside in school and buried herself in books. Now Josephine survives on Xanax to get her through the day. A decision to attend a striptease dance class has an unexpected impact on Josephine and she finds herself signing up for a year.
“You can hold a master’s degree in philosophy, and have cellulite and stretch marks, and dream of being a nude dancer. You have to cling to something, and what better to cling to than yourself?”
These classes are the only thing keeping Josephine sane – “An hour and a half when I feel alive”. All week she only survives but on a Friday she comes alive, she becomes someone else, someone she could learn to love. A chance visit to a Champs Elyséé strip club opens up a new world of possibilities for Josephine and, without giving it too much thought, she jumps in at the deep-end: a teacher by day, a strip club dancer by night.
Entering the world of the strip club was a fascinating exploration of the lives of the women involved. These women hold the power over the men who visit, tantalising and teasing, but no touching. Strong bonds are formed and, for the first time in her life, Josephine feels connected to people, part of something bigger.
No Touching contains multiple erotic scenes, as one would expect in a book set in a strip club, but it would be wrong to think that this is just a titillating tale. No Touching explores the importance of not losing yourself in the everyday. It is all about the possibility of a different way of living, of grabbing life and enjoying every moment. It’s very easy to get lost in the humdrum of daily living where every day blends into the next. We all need a spark to jolt us out of our comfort zones. Josephine chose a strip club but for you it could be something as simple as picking up a paint brush, learning to jive or to finally take that first exercise class you have been promising yourself forever. The message is strong in No Touching – DO NOT LEAVE IT TOO LATE.
No Touching is a sensual, profound and, at times, philosophical read, due to the nature of the subject, but it is also uplifting and hopeful. Translated work has, yet again, taken me on a wonderful journey into the unknown and I would like to thank Europa Editions for giving me this unique opportunity.
[ Bio ]
Ketty Rouf was born in Trieste, Italy, in 1970. After reading for a masters’ degree in philosophy, she settled in Paris to pursue her studies, advised by eminent French philosopher Paul Ricœur, and take classical dance lessons. After a stint at the department of education, she now works as Italian language tutor, translator and interpreter.
No Touching is her first novel.